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The rise of the Maldives as a top international surfing destination is another tale of "surf explorers" stum¬bling on dream waves more through good for tune than a carefully calculated plan. In 1972, Aus¬tralian Tony Hinde started surf-travelling through Asia to escape the overcrowded breaks at home and Western civilization in general. In December 1973, after surfing Sri Lanka, he and a friend crewed on a sailing yacht heading for Africa. Their plan was to move on and try the surf over there. They didn't make I – one night their yacht, seriously off course, ran ashore on a reef near the Maldivian capital, Male. For Hinde, it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened in his life. He awoke next morn¬ing to "a beautiful lagoon surrounded by a beautiful reef and covered by an equally beautiful sky". He and his friend stayed on to salvage the boat, and he became fascinated with the Maldives – which at that time received virtually no visitors. Then he discov¬ered the extraordinary local surf. For the next dec¬ade he lived an idyllic life, surfing dream waves and immersing himself in the local culture. He converted to Islam, changed his name to Tony Hussein Hinde and married a prominent Maldivian woman. Then, as the world started coming to the Maldives, and more and more of his friends arrived to share the waves, he decided to open a commercial surfing operation Atoll Adventures, the first specialist surfing opera¬tor in the country.

The Republic of the Maldives is an archipelago of 1192 coral islands situated south-west of the south¬ern tip of India. The Maldivians are an independent Islamic nation with a very strong sense of their own identity, and consequently tourism has been care¬fully regulated to protect both their culture and the environment. Independent travel is nearly impossi¬ble. Virtually all visiting surfers are on a pre-paid pack¬age deal and stay at one of the resorts in the handful of atolls in the designated tourist areas on North Male' (pronounced mar-lay) and South Male' atolls. Many visiting surfers stay at the well-appointed Tari Village Resort which has exclusive access to Pasta Point —a perfect, long peeling left, and the most consistent of the North Male' breaks. Five minutes away are Sultans and Honky's, the two other top breaks in the region. Sultans is an excellent right with great bar¬rels, while Honky's is a long wrapping left reckoned to be the best wave in the Maldives — given the right conditions. There are also a variety of other excel¬lent reef breaks on the islands nearby, which can be easily accessed by boat. Small wonder Atoll Adven¬tures' Pasta Point Tours are booked up to 18 months in advance! The Outer Atoll Surfaris, which takes in surf areas outside the designated tourist zone, are also popular.

The Maldives has two monsoons: the northeast monsoon from November to April and the southwest monsoon from May to October. The main tourist sea¬son is November to April, but conveniently the best surf is in the "off-season" — from late February to mid-November. The prime months for waves are March to May and September to November, when light winds blow from the northwest, holding up the faces and hollowing them out. Remember to bring all your equipment — including booties for the sharp reef floors — as there are no surf shops.

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